Death & Dying

A Funeral Service

This has four parts:


If we are requested to perform a funeral rite for someone who has recently died, we can use this sadhana Heartfelt Prayers. This is a funeral service in which spiritual practitioners gather together to make heartfelt prayers and dedications for the deceased person to take a fortunate rebirth. Because it is a Buddhist service, the prayers are addressed to the assembly of Buddhas and other holy beings. The prayers set out in this ritual are only the basis for a funeral service, and may be adapted as appropriate.

The power of our prayers depends upon the strength and purity of our intention. In this service it is very important for everyone to have a mind of compassion for all living beings in general, and for the deceased in particular. If we have a genuinely compassionate motivation our prayers will definitely be effective.

Heartfelt Prayers

Preliminary prayers

In the space before me is the living Buddha Shakyamuni surrounded by all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, like the full moon surrounded by stars.

I and all sentient beings, until we achieve enlightenment,
Go for refuge to Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. (3x)

Through the virtues I collect by giving and other perfections,
May I become a Buddha for the benefit of all. (3x)

May everyone be happy,
May everyone be free from misery,
May no one ever be separated from their happiness,
May everyone have equanimity, free from hatred and attachment.

Prayer of the Stages of the Path

The path begins with strong reliance
On my kind Teacher, source of all good;
O Bless me with this understanding
To follow him with great devotion.

This human life with all its freedoms,
Extremely rare, with so much meaning;
O Bless me with this understanding
All day and night to seize its essence.

My body, like a water bubble,
Decays and dies so very quickly;
After death come results of karma,
Just like the shadow of a body.

With this firm knowledge and remembrance
Bless me to be extremely cautious,
Always avoiding harmful actions
And gathering abundant virtue.

Samsara’s pleasures are deceptive,
Give no contentment, only torment;
So please bless me to strive sincerely
To gain the bliss of perfect freedom.

O Bless me so that from this pure thought
Come mindfulness and greatest caution,
To keep as my essential practice
The doctrine’s root, the Pratimoksha.

Just like myself all my kind mothers
Are drowning in samsara’s ocean;
O So that I may soon release them,
Bless me to train in bodhichitta.

But I cannot become a Buddha
By this alone without three ethics;
So bless me with the strength to practise
The Bodhisattva’s ordination.

By pacifying my distractions
And analyzing perfect meanings,
Bless me to quickly gain the union
Of special insight and quiescence.

When I become a pure container
Through common paths, bless me to enter
The essence practice of good fortune,
The supreme vehicle, Vajrayana.

The two attainments both depend on
My sacred vows and my commitments;
Bless me to understand this clearly
And keep them at the cost of my life.

By constant practice in four sessions,
The way explained by holy Teachers,
O Bless me to gain both the stages,
Which are the essence of the Tantras.

May those who guide me on the good path,
And my companions all have long lives;
Bless me to pacify completely
All obstacles, outer and inner.

May I always find perfect Teachers,
And take delight in holy Dharma,
Accomplish all grounds and paths swiftly,
And gain the state of Vajradhara.

From the hearts of all the holy beings, streams of light and nectar flow down, blessing and purifying . . . ‘s mind.

The assembly observes a short period of silence.


A remembrance of the deceased is delivered.

The officiant leads the assembly in prayer:

Buddha taught that all life is impermanent and that all those who are born must eventually pass from this life. However, everyone has within them the seeds of their past virtues, which have the power to bring a fortunate rebirth in the future.

We pray that through the power of this virtue, through the blessings of the holy beings, and through the force of our heartfelt prayers, our dear friend, . . . , will experience great good fortune and everlasting peace and happiness.

We also pray for the bereaved relatives and friends, that they may be comforted in their loss and find peace of mind and strength of heart.

May all beings without exception be released from suffering, and find true happiness and everlasting peace.

Additional prayers can be recited at this point.

The assembly observes a few moments of silent contemplation and prayer.

Now, while focusing strongly on compassion for all living beings in general and for the deceased in particular, the assembly chants the mantra of the Buddha of Compassion twenty-one times:


Dedication prayers

The officiant says:

We now dedicate all the virtues we have collected to the future happiness of our dear friend . . . .

The assembly recites the following prayers:

Through the virtues we have collected
By practising the stages of the path,
May . . . find the opportunity
To practise in the same way.

May . . . experience
The happiness of humans and gods,
And quickly attain enlightenment,
So that his/her samsara is finally extinguished.

May there arise in . . . ‘s mind
Great faith in Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha,
And thus may he/she always receive
The blessings of the Three Precious Jewels.

May . . . meet precious Teachers
Who reveal the stages of the path to enlightenment,
And through engaging in this path
May he/she quickly attain the ultimate peace of full enlightenment.

The Buddhadharma is the supreme medicine
That relieves all mental pain,
So may this precious Dharma Jewel
Pervade all worlds throughout space.

However many living beings there are
Experiencing mental and physical suffering,
May their suffering cease through the power of our merit,
And may they find everlasting happiness and joy.

May there never arise in this world
The miseries of incurable disease, famine, or war,
Or the dangers of earthquakes, fires,
Floods, storms, and so forth.

Through the blessings of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas,
The truth of actions and their effects,
And the power of our pure superior intention,
May all our prayers be fulfilled.

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All quotations from Geshe Kelsang Gyatso's books copyright The New Kadampa Tradition - International Buddhist Union, all rights reserved worldwide. For more information on Geshe Kelsang's books visit Tharpa Publications.